Tardiness Leads to Charges for Students' Parents

Class 3 misdemeanor for failing to get kids to school on time

Detention for chronically late students is common, but what about parents in court because of their frequently tardy children? That’s happened to some parents in Loudoun County, Va.

Loudoun County Public Schools officials say that it’s about the welfare of the children and that the late arrivals disrupt class. At least one parent thinks the school district is trying to criminalize something the statutes don't permit.

Mark Denicore and his wife appeared in court in Loudoun County Monday morning for allegedly failing to get their three children to school on time.

“We are the first to admit we are not perfect and our kids are not perfect but we are doing our very best and don't think in this case it should be criminal charges,” Denicore said.

According to Loudoun County Public Schools, between one and 30 minutes late is tardy. The Denicore children have been tardy at least 30 times this year alone -- almost one out of every three days, according to Wayde Byard, of the school district. It falls under the state’s truancy code, he said.

"The student comes in, has to put their coat away, their lunch away, gets seated -- it's a disruption for everybody who is there on time and ready to learn,” Byard said. “It’s a distraction affecting their learning."

“If they were bringing criminal charges against every parent who had a child that was disruptive in school, the courthouses would be full,” Denicore said.

Morning commutes can be lengthy, but the Denicores half a mile away from the elementary school -- less than a two-minute drive.

"We definitely don't have the traffic excuse that some people have,” Denicore said. “I wish we did, but we don’t.”

Denicore admitted he knew the court summons was coming but said there are other important things to teach children besides timeliness, like eating a good breakfast and tying their own shoes.

“It’s like herding cats trying to get them all heading in the right direction,” Denicore said.

“How can we work with you?” Byard said. “In some cases, principals have actually gone to a student’s house and helped them get ready and taken them to school. We have attendance officers who will work with students to get them ready, to get them into a routine, map things out so they’re ready to come to school.”

The Denicores’ trial date is March 14. The violation is a Class 3 misdemeanor.

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